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Egypt deports Islamist Britons released from jail

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CAIRO, Mar 1 (Reuters) Egypt deported to London three Britons released from jail where they had served almost four years of their five-year sentences for spreading propaganda for an Islamist group, officials said today.

The Britons -- Reza Pankhurst, Maajid Nawaz and Ian Nisbett -- were among a group of 26 men jailed for between one and five years for spreading propaganda of the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party).

They boarded a flight to London today, officials at the airport and the British embassy said.

The Interior Ministry agreed to set them free because they had served three quarters of their sentences. Including their time awaiting trial, they have been in jail since early 2002.

At the time of the trial, Hizb ut-Tahrir complained the authorities had tortured the defendants to extract confessions.

The Egyptian authorities say they investigate all complaints of torture in detention.

The human rights group Amnesty International said the trial, held in a state security court, was unfair and the men were convicted merely for expressing their views peacefully.

The charges against them included spreading propaganda for a group which called for the overthrow of the government.

In the same case, eight Egyptians and a Palestinian were sentenced to five years in prison, seven Egyptians to three years and a further seven Egyptians to one year.

REUTERS KD KP1503

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